Urban Surveillance State Prototype In Oakland

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Above: Surveillance Americas Pasttime by Jared-Rodriguez

Exemplifies “Security” Mission Creep of a National Surveillance System

According to the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), the City of Oakland will likely soon approve the acceptance of additional federal funding to complete a citywide surveillance center based on anti-terrorist models. However, its mission will be expanded to include public surveillance that extends to general law enforcement. If one recalls, this would have likely included the violent suppression of the Occupy Movement in Oakland and port worker strikes in the recent past.

Photo: matthileo

Photo: matthileo

As the CIR reported on July 18:

“With this city [Oakland] repeatedly roiled by civil protests and the public’s attention sharply focused on government surveillance, local officials are pushing forward with a federally funded project to link surveillance cameras, license-plate readers, gunshot detectors, Twitter feeds, alarm notifications and other data into a unified ‘situational awareness’ tool for law enforcement.

“The Domain Awareness Center, a joint project between the Port of Oakland and city, started as a nationwide initiative to secure ports by networking sensors and cameras in and around the facilities. The busy port is one of seven U.S. maritime facilities that the Department of Homeland Security considers at highest risk of a terrorist attack.

“Since its inception in 2009, the project has ballooned into a surveillance program for the entire city. Some officials already have proposed linking the center to a regional Department of Homeland Security intelligence-gathering operation or adding feeds from surveillance cameras around the Oakland stadium and arena complex.”

Mission creep toward an integrated surveillance state extending far beyond the original claim of protecting Americans from terrorists now seems inevitable,  Indeed CIR found:

“The Oakland Domain Awareness Center currently does not have privacy guidelines or limits for retaining the data it collects, raising concerns from civil libertarians and privacy advocates.  Eighteen license-plate readers mounted on Oakland police vehicles and city infrastructure already collect and retain millions of license-plate records.

“Linda Lye, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California who led protests against the Alameda County sheriff’s proposed purchase of an aerial drone this year, called the Oakland surveillance center “a classic illustration of mission creep.”

“’What are the limits on dissemination?’ Lye asked. ‘And what are the privacy and safety protocols for handling this information internally and through outside agencies?’”

One of the more ominous developments regarding the Oakland “Domain Awareness Center” is that, according to CIR, it plans to share its surveilance information with other law enforcement agencies “including the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center and ARIES, a regional law enforcement information-sharing network.”

A southern California “Domain Awareness Center” that focuses on the Port of Long Beach works with the regional fusion center.  Fusion centers were set up by the Department of Homeland Security as secretive surveillance and information gathering operations around the nation in the wake of 9/11. They have been highly controversial from the start and have been accused of operating far outside of their original anti-terrorist mandate.  (Participants in fusion centers include the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon, the Department of Justice and local law enforcement.)

An October 2, 2012, Washington Post article was headlined, “DHS ‘fusion centers’ portrayed as pools of ineptitude, civil liberties intrusions.”

The WP article summarizes a highly critical report on the fusion centers: 

“An initiative aimed at improving intelligence sharing has done little to make the country more secure, despite as much as $1.4 billion in federal spending, according to a two-year examination by Senate investigators.

“The nationwide network of offices known as “fusion centers” was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to address concerns that local, state and federal authorities were not sharing information effectively about potential terrorist threats.

“But after nine years — and regular praise from officials at the Department of Homeland Security — the 77 fusion centers have become pools of ineptitude, waste and civil liberties intrusions, according to a scathing 141-page report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations.

“The creation and operation of the fusion centers were promoted by the administration of President George W. Bush and later the Obama administration as essential weapons in the fight to build a nationwide network that would keep the country safe from terrorism. The idea was to promote increased collaboration and cooperation among all levels of law enforcement across the country.”

One can speculate that there is a high degree of probability that the Oakland Domain Awareness Center will cooperate with the San Francisco area fusion center.

One doesn’t need to be conspiratorial to see how a national surveilance system is incrementally developing.

Oakland is apparently going to be a test run.